POLTERGEIST - Back To Haunt
Between 1989 and 1993, Swiss thrash metal band Poltergeist released three albums that although favourably met never allowed them to climb out of the shadow of Celtic Frost and Coroner, the two big metal bands the Alps republic had to offer in that golden age of thrash metal. Guitarist V.O. Pulver was smart enough to smell the winds of change and had more success with his groove metal band Gurd that started in the mid-Nineties and is still active today.
And still it seems as if his heart never gave up on Poltergeist, considering that after a twenty-three-year hiatus heís now back with the fourth longplayer Back To Haunt. The only other remaining original member is vocalist Andrť Grieder who didnít have much of a career after Poltergeist apart from being the vocalist on cult thrashers Destructionís rather overlooked album Cracked Brain. Coincidentally Poltergeistís new drummer Sven Vormann also used to play with Destruction, although ten years later than Grieder. The line-up is completed with guitarist Chasper Wenner and bassist Ralf Winzer Garcia.
I have recollections of early Poltergeist as having been a competent thrash metal band, no more, no less. Therefore I was positively surprised by the first few tracks on Back To Haunt which starts with its title track, a fast, technical and melodic thrash metal song I wouldnít have expected in that dynamic shape from these metal veterans. The band sounds tighter than ever before, probably thanks to V.O. Pulvers three decades of experience in the music business. The vocals are rather high although not gratingly so, and match perfectly with the complex music. The tight rhythm section and the intricate guitar works furthermore underline the bandís qualities. Gone And Forgotten continues in that direction, although at a more elevated pace, bringing back memories of late Eighties speed thrash metal. Wonderful stuff! The following Patterns In The Sky is another good example of Poltergeistís melodic technical thrash metal. They may never sound as exceedingly complex as their forefathers Sieges Even or Watchtower, but no one can blame Poltergeist of not bridging the gap between brainy prog and gutsy thrash metal.
It should be noted though that the band put their best material right at the front of the album. If thatís a smart move is for you to decide. The remaining tracks are also very enjoyable, even from the fourth track on there is more variety, which can be a good thing, but also mean that weíre in the presence of a band that has lost its way. Take for instance And So It Has Begun where you get the impression that youíre listening to Exodus. Mind you, itís a good song, but it feels a bit on the wrong album. The short When The Ships Arrive is a fast thrasher that shows that Poltergeist also feel at ease at more concise material. On the contrary, The Pillars Of Creation sees them as a band trying its hands on epic thrash metal, which again is nice enough, with a certain early Metallica touch, but possibly not as technical as the first three songs on the album.
I wouldnít say that Back To Haunt is disappointing, far from that, even! In fact, after listening to their early albums, it must be said that Poltergeist never sounded so powerful as today. It would have been too much to expect an album that could have kept the insane quality of its first songs. So maybe this comeback album is a little too much on the long side. A few tracks less could have given it a more streamlined appearance. But letís not complain. Coroner released their last album in 1993, the same year that Poltergeist had their last album out for a long time, and Celtic Frost have been quiet for ten years too, so we can claim without a doubt that Poltergeist are currently the Swiss top metal band.